Monday, August 5, 2013

Cancer Bombs: In Conclusion...

[Note: This is the final installment of this series. The first can be found here. All previous (and subsequent) installments of this series can be found here.]

There are a few items I wanted to address at some point in this series, and the perfect moment never arose. So I'm going to plop them at end of this series, because it's my show and I can do what I wish. Heh.

Regarding being mentally balanced/on board for proactive surgery:

You might remember from the early posts that initially I had been afraid that my surgery might be cancelled if I spoke my mind or acted my normal eccentric self. As I discovered after that first surgery, my (ahem) overflowing cup of personality probably worked in my favour.

Yes, it was perfectly okay for me to be me, because my regular-for-me (if bizarre for others) behaviour is illustrative of excellent coping skills.

Yes. Gallows humour and a penchant to spout sarcasm and nonsense is indicative of a healthy psyche. I’m not back and forth and woe-is-me... my terminal realism has me grounded and while I may say things that appear off the wall, it’s okay.

Here all that time I’d been worried about possible derailment of my surgery... heh.

From my experience, apparently showing up for your appointments indicates to the powers that be that you’re on board. Never once did I encounter someone poking me verbally to see if I bled anything other than confidence that this was the path I should choose. If my remarks were sarcastic or self-deprecating, apparently it assured them I was a person and not an automaton.

The professionals I dealt with chuckled at jokes, and (lo and behold!) were people. They understood that opting to chop obsolete feedbags off your chest in the name of longevity made sense. If I happened to slip from my self-imposed severity and laughed at the absurdity of being able to put in an order for your own breast size, or drew similarities in unconventional ways, no one blinked an eye.

(A particular anecdote relating to my oddball linear train of thought: I heard one doctor hospitalizes her single mastectomy patients one night, but kept her double mastectomy patients two nights. Guess who opted to say “oh! One night per boob!” at an awkward moment? Yep. It was one of those instances when I wondered if my life were secretly being filmed, it was sitcom scripted for canned laughter and mortification.)

Overall though, it was as if it were assumed I was human, and expected to be a touch odd, especially considering the circumstances.

Go figure, during grief counselling years ago I’d been told the ability to find quirks and humour in odd situations was indicative of strong coping skills.

Guess what I have in spades? Heh.

Regarding bravery:

This genetic testing and surgery was never a secret. Sure, I may not have shouted it from the rooftops, but I’ve never been silent about it.

I did, however, become quiet.

Whenever it came up in appropriate discussion (or inappropriate discussion, as the case occasionally tends to be with me—ha!), I’d find myself inundated with praise.

“You’re so brave...”

“You’re so strong...”

“I couldn’t do it...”


“I wouldn’t know what to do in your place...”


No offense meant, folks, but I’m a fighter. Always have been strong because I have no stomach for the alternative (being a victim).

But here’s where it gets complicated...

This prophylactic mastectomy? This surgical bypassing of genetic destiny?

It was cheating. I was ducking from the battlefield before the fight had begun.

Those seven months waiting for surgery were occasionally awash with guilt...

My predecessors had fought cancer, and won or lost as nature saw fit. I was tagging out of the fight before the rounds had even begun.

How was that fair? How was that strong? How was that brave?

But here’s the other thing: when faced with overwhelming evidence that I was likely to have breast cancer at an early age, and likely to have more if I survived, how could I not choose the path I had taken?

For me, it was do or die.

And anyone who said they couldn’t fathom doing the same simply hadn’t taken the time to assess the landscape from my perspective.

I get that everyone has their hang ups. If you’re afraid of surgery and can’t imagine going the mastectomy route, well, I figured my choices were have surgery while healthy and hale and able to recover, or wait until cancer is slowly riddling my body tumors and then have surgery and attempt recovery while poison is shot through my veins on a weekly basis.

For me it was a pretty simple decision to make.

The geneticists may not have been able to officially say my BRCA2 mutation is cancer-causing, but it’s an awfully big gamble to make considering my family’s medical history.

In the end I figured there was no choice at all: surgery healthy or surgery ill. Life’s mortality rate is 100%, and you can only affect how long you’re given by so many factors.

Sure, I may have dodged the big prize, but what if I’m hit by a bus? There’s no way to predict for sure if I’ve managed to lengthen my life or not at this point, but no one can fault me for trying.

(Welcome to why I wish they could’ve kept those cancer bombs somehow living on ice in a lab until they exploded in the name of science, and I could dance away gleefully untouched yet sound in the knowledge my decision was directly related to my longevity.)

This guilt, though, it still fluttered within my mind, an irrational butterfly flitting into perspective at will.

Thanks to long periods of introspection and the support of amazing friends (near and far), I came to the realization that I was not guilty of ducking from the cancer-ridden battlefield before the fight. No, in reality I was simply ambushing the would-be attacker before it had the chance to do the same.

The first strike, as it were.

That is a rationalization I can appreciate as a fighter.

Though I understand it’s not the path for everyone, I urge everyone to make an informed decision based on education. If you have a heavy legacy of cancer in your family, educate yourself—learn what you can about your own situation, and make the choice that is right for you.

Either way, fight for yourself. Be proactive. In this world we live in, ignorance is a choice.

Regarding life:

In the aftermath of these surgeries, I’ve been left in an anticlimactic place.

I always expected to get breast cancer—so much so I was startled by the lightness of realizing that was no longer the case. For a long time I have been hell bent on living my life to the fullest, however short that may have been.

Anyone who has met me in real life can attest to this: I speak my mind, I do what I want, and I’m not afraid to enjoy what I like, regardless of other people’s understanding (case in point: costuming and JordanCon).

But after this prophylactic mastectomy, I had a paradigm shift of proportions that surprised me. While I no longer am overcome with the urgency to live outside of the box and to make the most of my time (and do all the other clich├ęd shit people will spout when reminded of their own mortality), I find life is too much fun to change what I am doing.

Go figure, shedding concern for society’s norms and the expectations of others in favour of doing what you what makes you happy will do that. Not a giant leap.

At my first post-op appointment with Dr D, I thanked her for giving me another lifetime to enjoy. I had been cramming my life full—for my own enjoyment and as an example to my children—and she had effectively lengthened the amount of time I was alloted to do so.

So am I going to slow down? Pfft... never.

And at this point, I’m certain people will wonder what is wrong with me if I do.

And it's not just doing what you want—it's not being a doormat to other people's bullshit.

(Besides, I don’t care how much time you have, life will always be too short to put up with bullshit. Ha!)

As for my children, well... I will be calling the hospital’s genetics department annually to find out if they’ve made any discoveries as to whether my specific genetic mutation is cancer-causing. And when the time comes I hope my boys have themselves tested. It will be their choice, of course.

And my boys are going to remember my surgeries. At six and seven years old, they’re old enough that they will, I know this. One of my many reasons for a prophylactic mastectomy was the knowledge that they would always remember my surgeries, whether they were proactive or reactive to breast cancer.

I lived through a parent with breast cancer. Twice. I don’t want that for them.

My ability to recover from a proactive surgery is obviously much better than having cancer and also needing chemotherapy or radiation. (Treatment my children would also remember.) Sure, I required Mr Lannis’ intense support post-surgery, but I managed to save him from the grind that is being a spouse’s primary caregiver while at the same time carrying desperate fear, wondering if that spouse will survive the battle with breast cancer.

And I saved my children from wondering and witnessing the same.

This proactive surgical course will be a smaller blip on their childhood memories in the long run. They’ll remember the year their mother went through this. They’ll (maybe) read these posts and understand why.

And I’m hoping the lesson they learn will be to stand up for themselves. No matter what. Even when the bully is something as intangible and inconceivable as cancer.

You can still win.


  1. Such a great series of blog entries. Definitely educational and informative, though I wish you hadn't told us not to look up the necrosis cause now I can't stop thinking about it. Still, I know I will regret looking up the pictures :P Then again I have managed for all these year to not look up "two girls,one cup" so I think I will manage.

  2. It's morning, I haven't had my coffee (I read your blog with my morning tea, still groggy) and so words fail me. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with us all.

  3. How did I miss these comments? Oh yes: vacation. ::headdesk::

    You're very welcome, Dawn! You've been a wonderful support during the weekly posting! Thank YOU! :D

  4. Thanks, Tanith! And I laughed out loud at "two girls, one cup"--Mr Lannis went ON and ON about that years ago... ::snort::

  5. wearing the tensor bandage (and only the tensor bandage) could get you arrested if you go outside...

  6. Hahaha! Yes... well... it *is* legal to go topless in Ontario... so I guess I just need to remember pants... heh. ;)